I am a huge fan of the Gothic series – one of the very few series that kept me playing until 5AM in the morning, for a few days in a row… You can imagine how happy I was to hear that Piranha Bytes, the developers of Gothic, have decided to bring us a new experience via a new game: Risen. I got the game, I’ve played it and now you can read my impressions.
The game begins with your character and a beautiful girl named Sara sneaking around a ship in the middle of an impressive battle: an Inquisitor, a very powerful mage and a Titan who proves to be even stronger and destroys the ship. Minutes later your character wakes up surrounded by dead bodies, to find out that only him and Sara had survived the accident and arrived on a small island – Faranga. And that’s where your adventure starts.
Pretty soon you will find out that everything in the world of Risen looks and feels like a revamped and slightly improved world of Gothic: from the visuals to the dialogs, from the factions to the quests and even the plot, everything is Gothic. And that’s not a bad thing, especially if you loved the series in the first place.
Therefore, in Risen you will have the same progression as in the first Gothic series: your nameless hero (yes, your character has no name, once again!) will get to choose his faction by performing quests for them: join the Don’s men, warriors and thieves without any concept of morality and without any notions about magic; join the Warriors of the Order who mix staff fighting with basic magic knowledge; or become a complete mage of the Order. You will generally receive quests from both the Order and the Don’s men at first and you’ll learn more about each faction, making it easier for you to choose. However, don’t expect any heart breaking or solid stories behind any of the factions – it’s all kept at a minimum in order to let you play more.
What I loved about Risen was the fact that, despite failing to bring anything new to the genre or to those that loved Gothic, it did everything quite right: the number of bugs is minimal, the quests are quite varied and some of them are a real joy to complete, the game world is huge and the progression rate is not amazingly fast, therefore allowing you to explore all the hidden caverns on the game’s map in order to get that extra level.
Combat is also a bit more challenging than it was in Gothic and weapon specialization is a must if you wish to succeed, but I also find magic quite useful so I would strongly suggest against joining the Don’s men if you wish to have more options than just the sharp blade of the axe! And what Risen does really great is balancing the game: you can’t simply head to the woods as soon as the game starts because you’re certainly dead. You’ll first have to go in the town (or first to the Don’s men) and seek for assistance, learn a few things first, get yourself a decent sword and maybe some armor and only then dare to go into the woods.
What I didn’t like here, even though it will probably help players who like to do a bit of exploring at low levels, was the fact that the Harbor Town, probably the first place you’ll choose to visit, literally keeps its gates closed and your character won’t be allowed to get out until a faction was chosen and a few levels have already risen under its belt. It might be realistic, but it kills the variety any new game should offer (I’m talking about variety from a visual point of view, don’t worry about the quests, they’re all unique and you’ll have quite a handful to solve!)
Graphics-wise, Risen is a joy to watch, just like all the games created by Piranha Bytes, and you should expect those bits of magic that will simply make you stop and admire: a wonderful cascade, the view from the top of a cliff, the scary forest during a powerful storm… all these add to the game’s overall value, as well as the flawless sound effect. Personally, I didn’t become a big fan of the soundtrack, but it wasn’t disturbing, so I’ll let it be.
Risen is a wonderful game RPG fans and most especially fans of the Gothic series will love. It doesn’t have the heap of bugs of the previous series, it is consistent and charming, it is challenging and quite lengthy. Unfortunately, it’s main advantage – that it’s a lot like Gothic – is it’s main disadvantage. There will be moments when you will feel that you’re playing a remake and not a brand new game and the settings, the character names and voices and overall the entire game will sound, feel and be like Gothic from a different perspective and in a different world. Once again, for me, this wasn’t a biggie: I actually loved it because I consider the Gothic series to be the best in the history of RPGs, but it might turn off some.
But overall, if you are a fan of the RPG genre and you want a lengthy, challenging game with outstanding visuals, a great character progression and lots of enemies set in a huge world, Risen is a must buy!
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